Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

Fooling Around With Gradients: Graduated Filters in Elements+

As someone with Irish heritage, March and St Patrick’s Day always makes me think of Ireland. And that makes me pull out the photos I took during my two trips to the Ould Sod. And perusing them makes we wish the sky wasn’t completely blown out in every. Single. Outdoor. Photo. You know what I mean… that almost white, totally featureless sky that definitely didn’t look like that to the eye. Why does that happen? Well, as sophisticated as today’s digital cameras are, they’re still not great at filtering the bright light from the sky while keeping the foreground properly exposed. Landscape photographers understand this principle and carry a selection of neutral density filters they can pop over their lens to improve their shots. Neutral density filters have a section of the glass coated with a smoky transparent film that gradually gets lighter as it approaches the centre. This means that the section of the frame behind the smoky part will see less light than the part of the filter that’s completely clear, making the exposure of that part of the frame less bright. They can be positioned so that the dark section is where it makes the most sense; the resulting image will have a balance between the brightness of the sky or water and the remainder of the scene. So what if you’re not a famous landscape photographer and you have a bunch of photos that could be great, if that balance was there? Elements+ to the rescue!!

For those unfamiliar, Elements+ is an add-on application that allows Elements to do a bunch of things found in the more-versatile-more-expensive-and-more-difficult-to-learn Photoshop. It costs $15 or so and is version-specific. I use Elements 2019, so the version of Elements+ I have is the 2019 one. I wrote a tutorial overview of it last year that you can find here. So let’s see how it can take the place of a neutral density filter.

This photo of the bridge over the River Erne in Beleek, Fermanagh is one that I’ve played with before but I was never totally happy with the outcome. (A little trivia: The border between Donegal, Ireland and Fermanagh, Northern Ireland runs right down the centre of the bridge! It’s one reason Brexit has been so contentious for those living in Northern Ireland and why a hard border would be so difficult to re-establish.) The day I was at Beleek, the sky was cloudy, but not as it looks in the photo.

Once you’ve installed your copy of Elements+, all its awesome power can be found under File>Automation Tools. The graduated filter tool is in the RAW Corrections set, so I went ahead and clicked through.

The Graduated Filter tab is the second one from the left as shown. You can click on the tab, or the icon just above it. Then click on New.

The filter creates a mask over the photo on a separate layer. Click on the Mask tab and you’ll see which part of the photo is being filtered. Those boxes with green sections show you the orientation of the filter, with green being the darker part. The default setting is to place the darker part of the filter over the top half(ish) of the photo. You can already see how the default setting has changed the image. The green line with the big green dot at one end and the red dot at the other is how you control where the filter is actually applied.

My first goal is to make the sky as interesting as possible, so I moved the top slider labeled Zero Effect to the left, past midline, and the red dot moved up past the railing on the bridge.

Now to make some adjustments. I played with the sliders in the Adjustments menu, moving them just a little in one direction or the other and watching my preview image to see what changes. Not surprisingly, the Exposure slider has been moved a good bit to the left, or lower, and I also darkened the Highlights a smidge. All of a sudden, there are layers of clouds in the sky! Clarity adds a hint of detail, while Dehaze changes contrast and overall sharpness. Sharpness adjusts focus and Noise Reduction can minimize pixelation. These two adjustments need a very light touch, because they’ll make your image look really phony if you go too far. The changes should be quite subtle to the eye, but make a big impact all together. I wanted the grass on that little knoll to be a tiny bit more vivid so I added some more Saturation.

The neatest thing about these filters is that you can layer them one on top of another and adjust whole areas of photos quickly and easily. So now I’m going to add a filter to the bridge and water. I clicked New then clicked the second left filter with the darker area at the bottom. The default setting for this filter is as shown.

As you can see, I moved the red dot up so it sits directly over where the other red dot was, using the Zero Effect slider. Then I moved the bigger green dot down to the very bottom of the photo with the Full Effect slider.

These are the adjustments I made to the lower half. Can you see how much brighter and sharper the reflection of the bridge looks on the river? I really cranked up the Shadows.

Here’s the final image. The ripples in the water are much more visible and the reflection of the trees is brighter.

Check out this difference! This is the original.

Let’s talk a minute about some of the other icons on the menu. Up at the top right there’s a drop-down that will show you how many filters you’ve added and which one is currently active for further adjustment. The eye icon lets you turn on and off the filter to better assess whether you’re getting the look you want. And the garbage can – self-explanatory. If you don’t like it and aren’t interested in tweaking any more, just toss it! But… if you have a bunch of photos you’d like to apply the exact same settings to, if you click on the icon I’ve pointed to at the bottom, you can save them as a script and have them readily at hand later!

Let’s do another one. You might look at this photo of Ross Castle in Killarney National Park and wonder what I could possible find faulty with it. Well, maybe I can punch up the blue in the sky a bit more, maybe add a bit more detail to the clouds and to the trees.

So let’s get into the RAW Corrections menu again.

We’ll add a New Graduated Filter. The sky already looks bluer!

Now the sky is closer to the blue Lough Erne is reflecting. But I feel like the centre of the photo is too dark now, so I’m going to adjust the area the mask is covering.

Here’s the default. I want to move that red dot up so that it sits right were the grass meets the castle wall.


After I played with the various sliders, there’s more detail in the clouds, the sky is deep blue, the trees in the background are sharper and so are the stones in the castle walls. I wish the bird in the sky was clearer though!

I added a second mask to the lower part of the photo. It looks pretty awful right now, but I’m going to fix it.

I moved the red dot down to my original pivot point. Isn’t it so accommodating of Elements+ to save that for me?

After looking at it a bit longer, I decided the red dot needed to be lower on the grassy area. And look! I’ve swung the green dot over to the left so the dividing line hugs the edge of the grass better. By pulling the lower slider for the Full Effect mask adjustment over to the left, I can section off just part of the lower half of the photo! All that really needs to be adjusted is the grass, so this should work!

Now the grass is brighter and there’s more detail in the foreground trees and shrubs. Apparently, these last adjustments were made on a thrid mask. Somehow that slipped past my notice!

The final version:

And the original:

What do you think? I know I’m going to be doing this a LOT!!

Have you seen the announcement for the Season 11 of  Digiscrapping Survivor? The new destination theme will be announced and sign-ups start March 5 and I’m so excited!! The prizes are insane. Simply INSANE! I haven’t ever been in a place in my life where I could join in the fun, but this year I am, so I’m going to get my feet wet. I’d love to write a tutorial but I’m a babe in the woods here. If you’ve played along in the past and have any advice for me (to share with the rest of the GS community), send me a private message. I’ll compile all the hints and tips into a post and we can all hit the floor running. You can find a teaser for Survivor here. It’s the sign-up thread for Season 10, and gives a good overview of the competition. But I think the tips will be very useful, so bring ’em on!

Link to PDF download of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/2Oi6w80

Designer Spotlight: March 2021

North Meets South Studios!

Well, February sure flew by at our house, and March is upon us. This month’s Designer Spotlight is shining on the creative minds behind North Meets South Studios: Connie Prince and Tracy Anderson, aka Trixie Scraps. Their design styles blend so flawlessly, which only serves to reflect on their very long, strong friendship. Let’s get to know them a bit better. Ladies, get ready!

J: How long have you been designing?

T: I’ll celebrate my 13th year in business this October

C: I began designing digital scrapbooking products in 2004-2005ish, but officially selling in 2006.

J: Ah, so you both came to designing around the same time! Connie, what made you decide to start designing?

C: At the time the offerings were so limited, I was a paper scrapper and want to add unique elements to my layouts which I began to make digitally and print. It didn’t take long to realize I could do the whole thing digitally so much easier!

J: I think that’s fairly common, and it’s definitely part of my motivation to learn digital scrapbooking. What other craft let’s you have your cake (your digi supplies) and eat it too (use the same things over and over!)? Connie, what do you use to create your designs (program, additional tools, etc.)?

C: I use Photoshop CC, Illustrator. I also have a scanner that I use pretty often to scan things to extract.

J: I have 2 scanners and I don’t think I could live without them. Describe your design workplace for us?

C: It’s pretty minimalistic. I have a double monitor setup, that’s the most exciting thing about it lol.

J: I work on a laptop in my living room, about as minimalist as you can get! So, what motivates and inspires you as a designer?

C: I enjoy the process, coming up with an idea and creating it. The most rewarding part is seeing someone else use something that I’ve created to preserve their own memories.

J: That’s how I feel about my tutorials. I love browsing the Gallery and seeing layouts using some technique I’ve written about. Tracy, you’ve been awfully quiet… so it’s your turn! What’s your favourite kit currently in the GS shop, and why?

T: My recent “She Shall Not Be Moved” is my favorite because it speaks to my faith. And I love the colors!

J: What would your perfect vacation look like?

T: Sitting on a beach somewhere next to Connie with our guys. And preferably with some of the “mommy juice” she makes in my tumbler.

J: Hmm, that sounds… interesting! Maybe we need a recipe for that! Tracy, are you more likely to sing, or to dance in the shower?

T: Sing… I love to sing and serve on the praise team at my church monthly.

J: I love music. It’s a big part of my every day. I’m listening to folk music right now in fact! Let’s talk about another favourite of mine… food! If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

C: Chicken wings, hands down I am obsessed! However, if I could only eat at one restaurant the rest of my life it would be Waffle House.

T: Anything Italian, provided I make it.

J: I never used to like wings, and then my friend Patti’s hubby cooked some and I too was hooked. I love Italian food too. While we’re on a favourites roll, Tracy, what are your most and least favourite colours?

T: Least favorite is easy: orange Favorite is harder to choose… I like blue, purple and pink pretty equally.

J: I’m not overly fond of orange either, but yellow… ICK! Connie, what did you want to be when you were small?

C: I can’t really remember wanting to be anything in particular, I played school a lot so maybe a teacher? I did grow up and get a degree in education, but I didn’t really enjoy teaching very much so I retired early 🙂

J: Teachers are so under-appreciated. I think they’re super-heroes! Tracy, if you could have a super power, what would you like it to be?

T: Mind-reading. I am often too trusting and also often unsure of where I stand with people. It would be nice to always know what someone was really thinking!

J: Ooh, I don’t think I’d want that. I tend to think everybody is just tolerating me, and to have that confirmed would be pretty awful. Have you ever met anyone who’s famous?

T: Yes, I’ve met a handful of athletes because my husband owned and operated a sports memorabilia company for over 10 years. Among the list are Joe Frazier, Magic Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Joe Torre, and Julius Erving. But there were a bunch more, too!

J: Cool! The famous people I’ve met are only famous in narrow circles, but that didn’t stop me from fan-girling all over them. That’s a good segué into this: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

C: Cameron Diaz, she’s just quirky enough!

J: And she looks like you a bit, so that would be believable! Tracy, can you play a musical instrument?

T: When the pandemic started, I began taking piano lessons. I’ve come a long way in the last 10 months or so!

J: I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but we didn’t actually have a piano, so practicing was a problem. Same with learning to drive… While we’re talking about celebrities, what celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee Connie?

C: Dolly Parton, she’s a hoot!

J: She definitely is. I feel like she needs a warning label: Liable to make you laugh and cry in the same moment. If you had a warning label what would it say?

C: I would have a bunch, but definitely: If you leave cookies unattended she will eat them!

J: I’m there with you! Tracy, the last question is yours. Aside from necessities, what’s one thing you couldn’t go a day without?

T: Coffee. I mean, I *could* go without it, but I wouldn’t want to!

J: And why should you have to?? Thanks so much ladies for sitting down and chatting with me. Our GingerScrappers have gotten a glimpse into your worlds and I hope those who aren’t already huge fans are converts now.

Before I sign off for today. I want to make sure you all remember that Connie and Tracy are hosting the Daily Download and the Designer Spotlight Challenge for March. To go along with their month in the spotlight, the North Meets South Studios‘ entire store (bundles excluded) is 40% off the whole month of March!

Fresh Baked: March 1, 2021, Survivor News, NEW Guests, NEW Free With Purchase, Monthly Mix, and More

Hang on to your hats everyone, because this post is full of GingerScraps goodness. It’s such an exciting time of the year. Survivor is almost here. Keep your eyes on the blog, newsletter, and forum because sign-ups start very soon. But First!

Click here for thread in the GS Forum!

Now onto the March goodness.

Don’t forget to check out the Buffet Bundles. One easy click to add bundles of Buffet goodies to your cart.

Look at these wonderful colors for March. So excited to see what the Designers came up with. And check at the bottom to see some samples from our talented store creative team.

Remember any $10 spent in the store gets you this great collab. I love the theme of this one! Don’t you just love a good cup of coffee or tea in the morning?

It’s time for a new Monthly Mix. Perfect for some wet and windy March photos.

Now to the March Sneak Peek. This month’s Daily Download is from North Meets South Studios. It looks magical.

We have several designer announcements too.

I’m excited to announce that Angelle Designs is staying on and becoming a member of the GingerScraps family.

Angelle Designs

I’m also excited to announce that we have TWO guest designers for March!

Designs by Lisa Minor


This is Lisa from Designs by Lisa Minor. I am excited about my first guest spot at GingerScraps, however, I am not new to the world of digital scrapbooking. For over 10 years I did paper scrapping before discovering the amazing digital world. I now have more than 20 years of digital scrapbooking experience and 17 years as a designer. I turned from scrapbooking to designing and certainly found my passion. I love designing! My kits are full of elements and papers, because sometimes, I just can’t turn off the creativity. My goal is to make each of my kits the perfect instrument for any occasion. My husband and 4 adult children, 3 sons and 1 daughter, are my inspiration for many aspects of life including digital scrapbooking. My husband and I are blessed to have celebrated 34 years of marriage and to have our children nearby or with us in Texas. As my social media exhibits, my family appears often with glimpses of the 75 page family digital book I design each year. My hope is you find inspiration for capturing the special moments in your life as you browse through my shop. It is filled with wonderful items ready for your enjoyment and creativity!

Lisa Rosa Designs


Brazilian introvert, multi-passionate creative soul, mother of 2 ladies and 19 plants, owned by 2 cats.

I think this Challenge Reward theme is perfect for the last few weeks. Several people across the US will need this to showcase their strange weather. Complete any 10 challenges and get this full kit as your reward!

And now let’s see some creations from our store CT. You can see more examples in the Gallery.

Remember to keep your eyes on this space for the Survivor Theme Reveal and signups!

Fresh Baked: FEBRUARY 26, 2021

It’s time y’all. Every year, our fabulous Ginger puts together a friendly scrapping competition. Are you ready to guess 2021’s theme?

Click here to jump to the thread in the forum!

Remember, if you spend $10 in the GingerScraps store, you get this amazing kit for free!

Let’s see what the designers have for us this week!

Have you grabbed the February Monthly Mix Collab? Only a few days left to grab at this great price.

How are those challenges? You get this great kit as a reward with any 10 completed challenges.

tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating a Shadowbox Effect, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is an intermediate-level technique.

When we left off last week, the paper layers for the shadowbox were all complete. Now let’s look at adding some embellishments in between those layers. The adding part is pretty straight-forward. Shadowing those layers is the tricky bit. To give the layout the most oomph, the shadows will need to be as realistic as possible. So let’s review some shadow basics.

Shadows are created when light is obstructed by an object. When the object is sitting right on top of a surface, very little light can get under or behind it. Generally, paper will cast a very narrow shadow because it’s thin and flat, unless there are objects under it lifting it away a bit. Things with contours will cast shadows that vary depending on the size, shape, opacity and angle of the object. Flower petals or leaves may curve away from their backgrounds, and the shadows they cast will be narrower where they touch something else, wider where there’s more space. How dark a shadow appears also depends on the shape and density of an object. A button will allow almost no light under or behind it, even at an angle, while a bead may be translucent and will allow much more light through it. String and ribbon can be touching the background in some spots and curl away in others, so a truly realistic shadow will do the same. Now let’s apply these principles to the layout. Again, I’m working from the background out.

It’s possible to use commercial shadow Styles for this type of project, but it makes the whole task a bit more complicated. I’ve used a shadow Style on this flower , which offers some opportunity for adjusting it. Since this flower is underneath the whole paper stack, there won’t be a lot of room for light to leak under or behind it. So there aren’t many tweaks needed. To get to the controls for Styles, double-click on the fx icon on the right side of the layer in the Layers Panel.

I made the shadow narrower because it has all the weight of the layout on top of it. I also moved it closer to the flower’s edges for the same reason. Then I increased the Opacity because it’ll be sitting on top of a photo and might be lost there. Now, if this flower was further up the stack of papers and elements, it would be touching some things and well above others. Using a commercial style means there will need to be a lot of extra steps to adjust the distance and sharpness of that shadow where it’s really close to the object below it. For this reason, it’s working smarter, not harder, to create shadows for each layer as we did for the paper layers… many fewer steps.

The process of shadowing these objects is exactly the same as for the paper layers. Drop a blank layer underneath the object by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the new layer (sheet of paper) icon at the top left of the Layers Panel. Select the edges of the object by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail of the object with the blank layer active. Fill the selection with your shadow colour using the Paint Bucket tool.

Nudge it in the direction the light source dictates.

Apply a filter by clicking Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn.

Decrease the Opacity until it looks right. Those are the basic steps. I’ve done them so many times that it’s almost automatic for me now and it takes no more time than just hitting it with a Style.

The leaves could be shadowed with a style if we assume they’re fairly stiff and will be a uniform distance from the background. Because of how they’re positioned, there’s going to be very little shadowing on the dark pink paper behind them. The next several screenshots show the custom shadow steps again.

The smaller paper flowers at the notch of the heart shape need a bit more TLC to look realistic. They touch each other and the paper layer underneath them so the shadow will be narrower there. Then the petals are farther away from the background and will be bigger, broader and softer. The Smudge tool – looks like a finger pushing something on the page – will accomplish this. Some things to remember when using the Smudge tool: use a bigger brush than you think you need for a more subtle adjustment, use a light touch and watch the image as you work so you know when to stop. If you go too far, Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) back to the beginning and start over. To move the shadow closer to the flower, push with the brush very gently. To move the shadow farther away, pull with the brush very gently. If you have crosshairs in your brush cursor, you’ll see that the main action takes place right next to the crosshairs.

This screenshot shows how I’ve shadowed the second flower, before the Opacity is lowered.

Use your imagination when it comes to things like flowers, leaves, string, ribbon and even word strips. Think about how you’ve attached the object to your layout. I’ve decided this flower curves away from the background; the lower petal is relatively flat while the upper one curves in the centre so that there’s a bit more shadow along and away from the curve. For the string, look at it from the perspective of what parts are close to the paper layers and which could be curving away. Use the Smudge tool as needed.

This next part is more complicated – if you want to try it and aren’t following how I’ve done it, let me know and I’ll do an in-depth tutorial on it. (The technique is somewhat covered in this tutorial.) I wanted a petal from the flower to overlap the tag. To make it look like the petal actually extends up and over the tag, I added a layer mask to the TAG by clicking on the blue square with the white circle icon at the top of the Layers panel. Then working on the layer mask,, not the layer, I erased away whatever was overlying the petal. When using a layer mask, the foreground colour in your Color Picker will be either white or black. Remember, black conceals, white reveals. Set the foreground colour to black to conceal then switch to white and clean up the edges. When you have a nice sharp edge where the mask and the object underneath it intersect. Simplify the layer by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Simplify Layer.

As you can see from the screenshot. the shadow for the tag looks really wonky. It needs to be Erased from the area over the flower petal. I used the Eraser tool to carefully remove the areas of the shadow that would be underneath the petal.

But that leaves me with a new problem. The petal needs to cast a bit  of shadow on the tag. What can I do to make that work? Well, I chose to find the shadow layer for the flower and Copy a sliver of that shadow. I used the Elliptical Marquee tool and Selected the section of the shadow that should be on top of the tag. Then I made a Copy of that section by clicking CTRL/CMD>C and Pasted it onto the canvas by clicking CTRL/CMD>V. Elements will drop the copied section close to but not on top of the original. So I nudged it over to the spot where it needed to be, extending just a little past the edge of the petal, and then moved it up the layer stack until it was above the tag layer as shown in the screenshot. It needed a little shaving down and the easiest way to do that was to Select the edges of the flower by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the flower’s layer thumbnail in the Layers panel, keeping the sliver-shadow layer the active one, then Cutting out the extra shadow by clicking CTRL/CMD>X. Bingo! The petal now has a shadow! It just needed a tiny bit of a Blur and it was done.

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions. I want you to be confident and comfortable when you create, even when you’re being challenged!

Here is a link to a PDF version: https://bit.ly/3dLGZyN

Fresh Baked: FEBRUARY 19, 2021

Another Friday and another newsletter filled with awesome GingerScraps goodness.

Hello lovely scrappers! We have a special treat for you, our 2021 Newsletter Hop!
You can hop around our participating designers newsletters and collect a ton of fun free goodies!

All you need to do is sign up to receive the following list of newsletters BEFORE February 24th.

The newsletters containing a new freebie will begin to arrive in your inbox on February 12th. If you are already a subscriber to a newsletter, don’t worry, you will also be receiving the new freebie too!

For a full list of all the participating designers and newsletter links, visit the forum here: https://forums.gingerscraps.net/showthread.php?55609-2021-Newsletter-Hop!
Don’t forget to scroll down all the way to the end of this newsletter for the FREEBIE from the shop!

Remember, if you spend $10 in the store, you get this fabulous kit for free!

Let’s see what goodness we have from our designers this week.

Aimee Harrison

Cheré Kay Designs

Remember, any 10 completed challenges gets you this fabulous reward!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating a Shadow Box Layout

Editor’s note: This is an intermediate level technique, with as much detail as I can get in here so it’s achievable by most.

Let’s see if I can get this finished and posted before our dog barfs again… She apparently ate two cotton bandannas (and I’m not positive that’s all!) and luckily for her, she was able to bring them back up before they created a surgical emergency. She’s not impressed with the forced crate rest or the fasting, but there’s been no vomiting now for about 4 hours. Cross your fingers!

Steph has once again brought me an idea for a tutorial that will blow you away. She found it in the challenges at another store and she (quite correctly) thought it would make a great topic. In fact, I had to it split up into two parts to avoid overwhelming the new-to-digi gals. But you’re gonna love it! And it dovetails with the custom shapes tut from last week, in a way. So let’s get after it!

I started by choosing a photo I wanted to showcase but this technique can absolutely be photoless, with a quote or word art as the focal point, or any combo of elements. Then I decided I’d use a heart shape. But not a boring, typical PSE heart. I used the Custom Shape heart as my starting point, then I changed it. A lot. Remember, to be able to do anything other than resizing, Custom Shapes have to be Simplified. I used the Transform tools, a Basic Brush and the Eraser tool to arrive at my final shape. You could use any shape that tickles your fancy, one of the preset ones in your software or a freehand geometric shape… whatever you like! Before we move on, let’s talk about the Transform tools (Image>Transform) a bit. If you haven’t played with them, DO IT!! It’s fun! There are several options in the dropdown menu: Free Transform, Skew, Distort and Perspective. You can use one or all of them on a single image, but not as a single step. I started with the Skew tool. The bounding box comes up with “handles” at the corners and at the midpoint of each side. Skew only moves in one direction at a time; if you grab a corner handle and drag it up, the side of the image the corner is attached to will stretch, while the rest stays the same. You can move the handle in any direction and for any distance you like. Distort is similar to Skew, but allows the image to look like you’ve turned it on its axis while maintaining the basic shape. Perspective moves the whole side of the Bounding Box. If you grab the top corner and drag it up, the bottom corner will move in the opposite direction in the same amount. We’re going to revisit the Perspective tool in a tutorial coming in a couple of weeks. But back to my heart – as I mentioned, I put a photo on my canvas and adjusted the shape of my heart so that all the parts of the photo I wanted to be visible would be visible. It was a bit of a process, moving back and forth between tools until I got it right.

Here I’m showing you how I got the photo part right. I wanted all the hands and feet in there, but not so much of the background. I switched between Selecting the edge of the shape by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the shape so the edge was visible on my photo, hiding the shape layer, deciding what I needed to do to the shape and then making those changes. Lather, rinse, repeat. I finally got it just right, with a relatively smooth edge and could move to the next step.

The first paper layer will be this hot pink. It matches my grandsons’ capes and my granddaughter’s mask and pants. (Their other grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and they’ve been doing the Walk for the Cure every year of their lives.) For this layout I used Jumpstart Designs Jumpstart Your February kit, which is free in the Challenge forum for the rest of the month. As you can see, the marching ants are still there from the last time I checked my fit.

I had to be sure my paper layer was active because I want to cut that shape out of the paper.

Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X will cut the shape out and the photo will be visible again. We’re going to do this step 5 times, one for each of my papers.

See what I mean? Perfect colour match!!

For the next step I resized the shape by clicking one of the corner handles and then typing the amount of increase I wanted into one of the size boxes. I chose 20% because it would be enough to be easily visible and it was easy to remember, because I’ll be doing this step 3 more times. But you do you. Make sure the Constrain Proportions is checked, unless you only want your change to go in one direction. That would also work with this technique, and give a really cool result.

For the next paper layer I went with this polka dot paper for contrast. CTRL/CMD>click on the shape layer, with the paper layer active and CTRL/CMD>X and there’s another cut done!

Here’s how it looks with 2 paper layers.

Then again, I increased the size of the shape by 20%.

Now, the shape layer doesn’t have to be directly under the paper you’re cutting. It can be anywhere in the layer stack. It’s the selection that Elements cares about, not where it is. I added another grungy pink paper to the pile.

On to the cutting part.

If you want to see how it all looks without the black shape in the way, just turn that layer’s visibility off.

I went ahead and added two more paper layers, increasing the size of the shape layer by 20% each time. Now to add the shadows so it looks like I’ve stacked all these papers on top of my photo, and used those foam strips in between to give me a big offset. I’m going to create my own shadows for each layer and will take you through that process. But you can absolutely use an inside shadow style like these ones from Karen Schulz if you’d rather. That’ll reduce the number of steps for you quite significantly.

That shape layer isn’t needed any more so I’m just going to delete it. Right-click on the layer and choose Delete Layer, of just hit the Delete key. Either method will work.

If you’re still reading along, we’re going to run through my method of creating customized shadows on a separate layer. There’s a tut for that here. The first step is to add a blank layer UNDERNEATH the layer you want to shadow, in this case my first paper. To do that quickly and easily, hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on the sheet of paper icon at the top left of the Layers panel.

Then select the layer you’re shadowing by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail (not the layer, because that’ll mess up your next step!). Using the Paint Bucket tool (click>K), fill the blank layer with your shadow colour. The colour will only go inside the selection, as shown in the Layers panel. I used pure black for simplicity but you can use a brown or gray if you’d rather. (There’s another way of filling this layer with your shadow colour, but this is the quickest with the fewest steps.) Decide where your light source is coming from (upper left corner for this example) and nudge your shadow so that it appears where the light source dictates it would appear in real life.

Now, real shadows can be harsh and sharp-edged, but that’s not pretty. So let’s not do that! The way to make your shadows look more realistic starts with adding a bit of Gaussian Blur Filter to them. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

We want the shadow to make the paper look like it’s quite a distance from whatever is under it, so the Blur can be significant. I went with 10.0 pixels.

This step isn’t essential. I change the Blend Mode of my shadow layers to Linear Burn. It makes them a little darker but more transparent, if that makes sense. You don’t have to take this step, but if you do, make sure you do it BEFORE you adjust your Opacity. If you do it AFTER the Opacity change, next time you go to nudge something, Elements is going to change the Blend Mode instead!

This screenshot shows the Blend Mode is Linear Burn and the Opacity has been lowered to 45%. Look at the shadow now, as it’s cast on the photo. The colours in the photo are still easily visible and unaltered by the shadow. I’m going to shadow all the paper layers in exactly this manner.

To review Step One: Blank layer behind that paper layer. Edges of the paper Selected by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail.

Step Two: Fill the shadow layer with the Paint Bucket (click K) and click inside the canvas.

Step Three: Add a Gaussian Blur Filter. If you’re happy using the same amount of blur from the last step, the keyboard shortcut is CTRL/CMD>F and it’s done!

Step Four: Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn. then decrease the Opacity.

I found that an Opacity of 45% was too harsh against a solid paper so I went down to 35% and it looks right to my eyes.

Follow the same four steps for each of the paper layers. This image shows 3 shadow layers finished.

And now all of them are done. Don’t you think the shadow-box effect works?!

For the second part of this technique, I’ll add some embellishments and show you how I shadowed each of them to achieve the final, cohesive look. My layout is here so you can check it out. See you in a week!

PDF Download: https://bit.ly/2ZqQ73D

Fresh Baked: FEBRUARY 12, 2021

Happy Friday Everyone!! Do you have big plans for Valentine’s Day? Our newsletter is full of great kits to scrap those Valentine’s Day photos. We have some great things in this weeks newsletter.

Hello lovely scrappers! We have a special treat for you, our 2021 Newsletter Hop!
You can hop around our participating designers newsletters and collect a ton of fun free goodies!

All you need to do is sign up to receive the following list of newsletters BEFORE February 24th.

The newsletters containing a new freebie will begin to arrive in your inbox on February 12th. If you are already a subscriber to a newsletter, don’t worry, you will also be receiving the new freebie too!

For a full list of all the participating designers and newsletter links, visit the forum here: https://forums.gingerscraps.net/showthread.php?55609-2021-Newsletter-Hop!
Don’t forget to scroll down all the way to the end of this newsletter for the FREEBIE from the shop!

Remember, if you spend $10 in the store, you get this fabulous kit for free!

Let’s see what our designers have for us this week!

How are your challenges going? We’re almost halfway through February. Any 10 completed challenges gets this great reward!


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Text Boxes Don’t Have to be Boxes!

I’m so glad to have a distraction from the train wreck on my TV right now. All that hot air is giving me a headache. Then there’s the odd thing my Photoshop Elements did. It reset all my preferences all by itself. How does that happen?? I think I’ve got everything back to normal now.

When I got a message from Lisa about putting text inside a shape other than a box, I had to look at all the other tutorials I’d written to be sure I hadn’t already plowed that field. I found a tut about putting text around a shape, but not one for filling a shape. I knew I could build a tutorial around it, but I wasn’t as successful as I’d thought I would be. Her enquiry was about creating a geometric shape that she could then quickly and easily fill with her journaling. Alas, I haven’t succeeded in making that work. But… I can still show you how to use the Custom Shapes tool to create unique text boxes for your layouts. I’ll plop a paper down on my canvas so you can see what I’m doing more clearly. I chose this beautiful blue paper from ADB DesignsAntiques Emporium.

Next I had to choose a shape. The software has a huge assortment of shapes to choose from, but there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re choosing. If you want to use a fancy font, you might want to keep the shape simple. If you want to use a large font, again, keep the shape simple. But remember that you have the opportunity to make your finished text larger and more legible later on in the process. So by implication, the more complex the shape, the smaller and tighter the font will need to be. The default shapes are pretty ordinary, so if you want to see all the possibilities, click on that little upside-down pyramid icon to the right of the image box and from the pull-down menu, choose All Elements Shapes. Just for fun I chose this pear shape for my initial example, clicking and dragging out the shape by moving my cursor over the canvas. You can direct the orientation of the shape while you’re creating it simply by moving the cursor in the direction you want to adjust. You can use whatever colour you want for this step, just pick something that will show up against your background.

Now on to the text part. Select the Text tool. I’m just going to use the default font, Myriad Pro Regular for my example, and the Horizontal Text tool, but you do you. Choose your font, but before you go any further, check the Size and Leading (space between lines), make sure you’ve got a contrasting colour in the foreground box so you can see your text, and that your text will be centered. You’ll note that the layer with the shape on it is a Smart Object. Whatever you do now won’t change that layer unless you Simplify it. DON’T!

Move the cursor inside your shape, anywhere inside the shape; it isn’t necessary to put the cursor where you want to start your text. When you move inside the boundaries of your shape, your I-beam icon that tells you you’ve got the Text tool active will look like the image – the I-beam will be inside a circle. That’s how you know Elements knows you’re going to text inside a shape, and it turns on the invisible force field that keeps your text inside the shape.

Then just type! The software will keep all the text inside the shape and shift things as needed. If you want to have a very narrow border around your text and a tight shape, you may need to adjust the size of your font, adjust the Tracking (kerning – space between individual letters and words, only available with versions 2019 and later) or to edit the words you use to fill the space better. (I’m free-associating in the text on these images. It might be better if you don’t try to read it!)

At this point, you know how to do this task! To see what your text will look like on your paper, turn the visibility for the shape layer off and all that you see is your journaling. I was a tiny bit disappointed that no text went into the stem, but if I’d used an almost invisibly small font, I might have gotten that to work.

The rest of the images are all just to help you figure out how to use the shapes. Lisa mentioned geometric shapes specifically so I chose the Polygon Shape tool. You might think you’re limited in what shapes you can create here, but you can change the number of sides on your shape and keep them crisp or Soften them. There’s also the option to add Styles to your shape but we’re looking at text, so we won’t go there. Odd numbers are always more interesting than even numbers so I chose 9 sides.

As I mentioned, the simpler the shape, the larger the font can be. And too, it’s possible to adjust the orientation of your shape as you’re dragging it out.

The purpose of this image is just to show you that turning Visibility off for the Shape layer while the TEXT layer is the active layer will leave an outline on your paper. If you’re okay with that you can later exploit having the outline there. If you’re not okay with it, make the Shape layer active and it goes away.

Maybe I’d want to leave the outline there… this looks like I typed inside a circle!

And then there’s the Smooth cornered nonagon… almost indistinguishable from a circle. If I wanted a circle I could have chosen a circle!

Smooth pentagon…

How about stars? I’m quite partial to stars. Even this Star Shape tool has options. This is a basic 5 pointed star with a 50% Indent. I’ll show you some different Indents coming up.

Stars are more complex shapes, so the font size will need to be on the smaller side so the text fills the points better. Again, if it’s not looking right to you, try editing the words you’ve used, or adjusting the font size. If you’re adventurous and have 2019 or newer you can try tinkering with the Tracking so there’s more or less space between the letters or words.

With the Shape layer concealed, the star shape seems well-enough defined. If I’d started the text with a single or two-letter word, it would have started closer to the top of the upper point. You might also note that at the very end, there are random loose letters.

Just by Smoothing the Indents on the same star settings I ended up with this shape. It’s different, and could be an interesting addition to a layout.

Here’s what that same basic 5 pointed star looks like with both the Indents and the Points Smoothed. Not my jam.

So what happens if you change the amount of Indent? You get something like this! I went from 50% to 90%. Those points could draw blood! See how the letter “I” is all the way up into that top point? This could take a lot of tinkering.

If I turn off the Shape layer, I’m left with this. It’s just okay.

Then I thought, what will happen with a shape like this sign? Will the text jump over the “cut-out” area or not? Not. So disappointed!

What I learned from playing with this tulip shape is that it too will need some massaging to get it to work well. It ended up not being that bad…

I dropped the font size down to 12 points and was able to completely fill the shape. Now, 12 point type isn’t easy to read on a 600×600 pixel image, but it might be okay if you print out at 12×12 inches. The other option would be to fill the shape and then make the text layer larger.

Can I just leave the Shape layer in there as a journaling blank? Of course! And I can also make it look more intentional too. To make any adjustments to the shape though, other than to resize, it’ll need to be Simplified. (Right-click on the layer then choose Simplify Layer.)

Once the layer is dumbed down, I can add a Stroke to the edge in the same colour to make the shape larger without altering the way the text fits into it. To keep those points as sharp as possible I’ll put the stroke on the centre of the edge rather than outside. The stroke can be as wide as you want, but as you go bigger, the corners will blunt a bit. This tulip doesn’t really have sharp points so it’s all good! Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection.

If you think you might want to put a coloured border around your text box, rather than just add a Stroke to the layer, Select the edges by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the shape’s layer thumbnail. Once you have the marching ants around your shape you can add the Stroke that makes the shape bigger, then come in again and add a narrower, coloured Stroke to make your border without having to reSelect the edge. For the coloured border, you can go inside the selection and not worry about it biting into your text, as long as it’s skinny.

If you’ve put your coloured Stroke on its own layer (and I always recommend that!) you can get rid of the shape layer and still have a nice border!

Lisa, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find a way to do this with a hand-drawn geometric shape but I think I’ve shown you some options to get closer to the look you’re after.

Hopefully next week it won’t be so blisteringly cold outside and we can all get some fresh air! See you then.

Here is a link to a PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/3aWs4yN



Fresh Baked: FEBRUARY 5, 2021

Happy Friday everyone. I hope this week has treated you well. I’m ready for the weekend. We’re getting away for a long weekend to the beach.

Remember, any $10 spent in the store gets you this fun collab for free!

Let’s see what the designers have for us this week.

Have you gotten started on your Challenges for February? What is your favorite of our challenges?

Any 10 completed challenges gets you this beautiful kit as a reward.